Justice minister challenged over by-election comments

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 July, 2011, 12:00am


An academic offended by statements made by the secretary for justice that the Basic Law did not guarantee by-elections is asking a court to declare the interpretation invalid and seeking a public apology.

Dr Ho Wing-hon, of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, also wants the High Court to rule that it was wrong for Wong Yan-lung to say that it was an abuse of process for lawmakers to quit the Legislative Council and then participate in a by-election.

Ho. manager of the institute's Centre for Religious and Spirituality Education, said he felt he had been insulted by Wong, as he voted in the by-election last year. 'I am deeply unsatisfied with the legal judgment made by the secretary for justice ... [which] smeared me as a Hong Kong voter who exercised his fundamental right and freedom to vote in a solemn election,' Ho wrote.

He submitted an application seeking leave for a judicial review to the High Court on Friday.

'I must declare that I have not taken part in any activities which could be described as an abuse of process under the law,' Ho wrote.

It is the second application for a judicial review over acts and deeds of government officials in relation to a bill which proposes scrapping by-elections and passing the seat to the next-best-placed candidate in the same list as a departed incumbent.

The bill was abruptly put on hold days after the July 1 march, which drew a big turnout, and a public consultation process was launched.

According to the court document, Ho is unhappy with two statements made by Wong when he spoke to the media on June 29.

Wong said: 'Both the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights do not require that a vacancy at the legislative body must be filled by a by-election.'

Ho said Wong was attempting to wield power conferred by his position to interfere with politics and legislation, hurting the right of voters and by-election candidates.

Ho wrote that Hong Kong residents' right to vote and stand for election was protected by Article 26 of the Basic Law.

Lawmakers' right to resign should not be restricted and they had the freedom and right to stand in by-elections.

He claimed any restriction imposed on the lawmakers would be contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which remained effective under the Basic Law

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a legislator and senior counsel, said Ho's chances of getting permission to launch a judicial review were slim, because it fell outside the scope of matters reviewable by the court, which include a government decision or an established procedure.

In January last year, five Civic Party and League of Social Democrats lawmakers resigned to trigger by-elections, which they hoped would be seen as a de facto referendum on the scope and pace of democratisation.

But other parties did not contest the polls, and all five were voted back into office four months later.